Friday, February 26, 2016

A Tour through Ps. 119: Intro

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

I think I've gotten a little spoiled; it's so much easier to write a blog post when I have a topic or a theme to follow.

So I thought I'd undertake a little in-depth look at Psalms 119.

It's the longest single chapter in the Bible; most folks are familiar with it.

But what most folks don't realize is that it is an amazing piece of literature.

It is an acrostic poem;  it's broken up into 8-verse sections and each verse in each of those sections begin with the same letter of the Hebrew alphabet (if you look at it in your Bible, each section should be labeled with the letter that begins each of the verses in that section).

Each of those sections explores, declares, proclaims, defends, and otherwise praises the word of God.

So, starting next week, I'm going to look at each one of those sections in turn .

It'll take 22 weeks;  we'll be there a while.

But it's something I've not really done before, so I'm  thinking it will be kinda cool.

And I'm going to start using some pictures in the blog...basically because Facebook can't let me edit the link from this blog (it will let me edit the ones from the sewing blog...go figure) and every post I link gets displayed with that Christian Women Online button from the sidebar.  So I'm going to try to use some pictures to help connect the link display with what's actually on the post.
I think this is the photo I'll use for Bible study posts...:-)

Next week we'll start with Ps. 119: 1-8: Aleph.

Anyone interested in reading along?

Friday, February 19, 2016

Dangers of 'Strange Fire'

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

Years ago, when I was teaching Sunday School in the denominational church we were in for years, I had their 'contemporary' curriculum (I later switched to the Bible Book curriculum...for various reasons).  One of the most frustrating lessons I've had in all the teaching of teens I've done in my life was a lesson on the Prodigal Son.  The central message I was to communicate to the kids from that passage, according to the curriculum, was 'Patience and understanding can help resolve family conflicts.'

I. Could. Not. Believe. It.

For one thing, the resolution of the family conflicts came only when the sons (hopefully...we don't know about the older one) repented of their error and returned to the Father.  HIS patience and understanding allowed that; but, on the part of the sons, it took humility and submission.

They could have patiently waited all their lives and the Father would not have changed his standards to suit theirs.

That's an important concept to grasp.

God the Father has standards.  His standards do not change with the attitude of His people.  His standards do not change according to the numbers of folks that follow them.

Scripture is full of examples.  Cain is the first, bringing an unacceptable offering.  We don't know exactly why it was unacceptable, but he did...or would've, if he'd thought about it.  But he was convinced that God should accept him on his terms...and lashed out at his brother when God did not.

Mostly, though, this week I've been thinking about 'strange fire' (King James, NASB; 'strange and unholy' - AMP; 'unauthorized' - NIV).  As a kid, reading the stories about 'strange fire' in Lev. 9 and the Israelite leaders who died for offering unauthorized incense in Numbers 16, I thought it was rather extreme to die for something as simple as a smouldering dish.

I didn't understand what it represented.

Both examples reflect the same principle:  humans do not set the standards.  God does.

The account in Leviticus is especially poignant,   as it is a devastating loss at the peak of what should have been a huge celebration.  The Tabernacle was assembled, the altars and the priests consecrated, the burnt offerings assembled on the altar, and

Fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the fat portions on the altar.  And when all the people saw it, they shouted for joy and fell facedown. - Lev. 9:24, NIV 84

Now, Leviticus is generally thought of as a collection rules and regulations;  this little narrative of consecration, celebration and loss gets overlooked.  But that bit is important.  Y'all, this is something I didn't catch for years...the original fire on the altar was ignited by flame from the very presence of God.  That ain't no flint-and-steel was holy fire from the start.

And one of the duties of the Levites was to insure that the fire never went out.  They carried coals in censers when they traveled, and used those coals to rekindle the sacrificial fires whenever they stopped.

They always had God's fire, and it was God's fire that made the offerings holy.

What Aaron's two older sons, Nadab and Abihu, did was to take fire from another source...a fire that God had not kindled...and put it in their censers and used it to offer the incense.

It was strange fire of man's own kindling.  Worship based on human effort.  It looked no different than the fire God ignited; did it really matter?

So fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD. -  Lev. 10:2

Apparently it mattered.

'Among those who approach me I will show myself holy; in the sight of all the people I will be honored.'  Lev. 10:3

Aaron and his remaining sons were not even allowed to mourn their dead, as they were consecrated to God and had an obligation to maintain their ceremonial cleanliness and remain in their position.  That's how serious the offense was before God.

I want to emphasize something here...that fire did not look or behave any different than the holy fire.  The only difference was that it had been kindled by men instead of God.

The episode in Numbers was a question of authority.  I've written a bit about it before, and if you're curious as to the truly trivial thing that set it all off, click through.  But there were three of the Levites, and a couple of Reubenites, who had had enough of Moses and Aaron running the show and wanted them to share the authority.  They had 250 other Israelite leaders...who were not consecrated priests...who stood up with those three and said that they should be able to lead the people alongside Moses and Aaron.  So Moses told them all they'd have a little test...they'd all offer incense and they would see whose offering God accepted.

The narrative doesn't say whether the 250 guys used their own fire or whether they took some coals from the altar; given the other details, I rather think they just got some wherever they could, but perhaps they remembered Nadab and Abihu and collected coals from the altar.

However, the men themselves were unauthorized and unconsecrated.  They were not the ones God had selected, and they had not gone through the sanctification process.

They  were claiming to be just as holy and just as anointed and just as authoritative as the folks who WERE authorized to perform those duties.  Now, they had a position in the assembly; they were leaders of their clans and tribes...council members.  They had a measure of authority.  But they were not satisfied to serve where they were authorized; they wanted the ability to speak for God and declare what the nation would do.

Because, you see, in their hearts they thought Moses and Aaron were making it all up,  and not hearing from God at all.  And they believed they could figure out what God would want as good as Moses and Aaron could.  Their fire didn't look any different.

But Moses and Aaron really did hear from God.  Moses and Aaron really were authorized to speak in God's name.  And when it was put to the test, the ground swallowed the three guys who had instigated the whole mess and  fire came out from the LORD and consumed the 250 men who were offering the incense.  (Num 16:35)

The self-appointed people had no authority.  Authority matters.

There is authority and instruction that comes from God.  And there is a pseudo authority and instruction that comes from the hearts of humans.  It takes wisdom and discernment to tell the difference, because on the surface it looks the same.

So be careful.  Be wise.  Look behind the pretty, fragrant offering and see where it came from.  Is it something God has declared?  Or is it some person's idea of what ought to make God happy?

Friday, February 12, 2016

All Things New: End of Part 1 (Genesis)

posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

I've come to the end of the book of Genesis in the discussion of new beginnings; but there are many, many more stories of reversal and starting afresh.  I mean, my goodness, Exodus is all about that new start  for Moses, Aaron and the people of Israel. 

So, while I'm going to shift my focus now to other things, I may at some time in the future decide to pick it back up again and see how God's people face change...and how faithful God is through those changes.

I'm not sure I'll start another series study for a bit; I may just do a 'what's on my heart this week' for a season.  We are in Lent, and for whatever reason I've decided to go back and re read old posts.  I'm finding some areas in which I had an insight is typical of me...I haven't fully implemented those insights.


But I have thoroughly enjoyed this little set of character studies; I appreciate the feedback I've gotten on the study -- blog comments, facebook comments and other responses.  It's fun to be surprised that someone read the post...

My creative has been intrigued and I've got some off-blog writing projects going based on the inspiration I got from looking at all of these folks and considering how they, as real people, experienced and processed those events.  So, while I'll be focusing on other areas in the blog for a while, I rather expect to come back to 'All Things New'  at some point in the future.

I have a feeling this is going to be something I look at, off and on, for quite some time.

Friday, February 5, 2016

All Things New: Israel, the Ressurection Road, Part 2

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

It had been years and years since Israel had followed a promise of God.  He knew this would be the last, because the promise involved his death.  But he was going to see the son he had believed dead for the last twenty years, and he had God's word that his descendants would grow into a mighty nation while in Egypt, then return to the land of Abraham's covenant.

He was content.

Not counting any servants they may have taken with them, or the wives of his sons, but including Joseph and his two sons who had been born in Egypt, there were 70 who were directly descended from Israel, the seeds of the nation,that moved to Egypt.

Judah had gone in advance of the main party, to get directions to just exactly where Joseph intended his family to settle.

So Joseph knew approximately when his family would arrive, and he had his chariot standing by, so that when he received word that they were arriving, he made the short trip over to Goshen to meet them.

Genesis 46:29 states As soon as Joseph appeared before [Israel], he threw his arms around his father and wept for a long time.

Years of grief and longing were washed away by those tears, and I'm sure Israel's tears mingled with his son's.

I rather suspect the eyes of the brothers, who stood around them and watched the reunion, were not dry, either.

How many of them remembered the tears their father shed when they gave him the bloody coat and told him the story of how they'd 'found' it out in the wilderness?

When the weeping had subsided enough for words, Israel looked at his son and stated, 'Now I am ready to die, since I have seen for myself that you are alive.'

That sounds really morbid and depressing, but his statement really meant that his life was fulfilled; he had nothing more that he felt he needed to do or receive from life.  He was content.

But God still had more blessing for Israel.

Joseph introduced his family to Pharaoh, and, by diplomatic protocol, Israel and his family was given land to occupy in the region of Goshen, distinct from the population of Egyptians.

They would not be subject to assimilation to the culture there.  They may or may not have realized the significance of putting themselves separate from their hosts at the time, but this was actually a crucial bit of the process of turning a family of 70 ish folks into a nation:  they had to be able to maintain their customs and cultural identity for what would be four hundred years.

But, sometime later, as Israel was preparing to pronounce the patriarchal  blessing over his sons, Joseph came to see him, with two young men.

[Israel] asked, 'Who are these?'
'They are the sons  God has given me here, ' Joseph said to his father.
Then Israel said, 'Bring them to me so I may bless them.'
Now Israel's  eyes were failing because of old age, and he could hardly see. So Joseph brought his sons close to him, and his father kissed them and embraced them.
Israel said to Joseph, 'I never expected to see your face again, and now God has allowed me to see your children too.' (Gen. 48:8-11)

I still remember the day I read that little passage and the full impact hit me...I was in Windsor, Canada on a Teen Mania Leadership training weekend.  It was during the morning quiet time...and I happened to be in Genesis.  I read that passage, then went back and read it again.  I never expected to see your face again, and now God has allowed me to see your children, too...

Talk  about a resurrection.   God fulfilled the desire of Israel's  heart...even though he had long given up on it...and then added a blessing on top of it, beyond anything he'd imagined.  I was awe-struck at that moment.  My concept of who God is and how He  deals with people shifted.  We may give up on the promise...but God remembers.  And God keeps His promises.

What is in my heart that I have given up on?  That I have been grieving...even dead and forever gone?  How can I release that to Him and trust Him with it?  How will my life change if I truly let it go?